I love fortune cookies. I always have loved fortune cookies. I always will love fortune cookies. But I never eat them.
To me they’re just like delivery trucks. It’s what’s inside that counts.
Now I’m not saying that fortune cookies have a bad taste but they definitely have one of the most boring tastes of any dessert. Which isn’t hard to understand when you consider they’re mostly flour, sugar and water and, if you’re lucky, a little artificial vanilla and a sesame seed substitute.
Now you probably already know that, even though you’d have a hard time finding a Chinese restaurant in North America that doesn’t serve fortune cookies, you’d have a hard time finding a Chinese restaurant in China that does.
But, unlike chop suey, General Tso chicken, egg foo yung, and sweet and sour anything, that are truly American inventions, popular opinion gives the Japanese not the Americans credit for the fortune cookie, late in the 19th Century in Kyoto. Though there are records of cookies with paper slips inside being sold in the United States, early in the 20th Century (by a Japanese businessman), at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.
It was a few decades later when I first started frequenting Chinese restaurants. In those days, the fortune cookies held messages that were a lot different than they are today. And they made some guy from the 5th Century, despite his problems with English grammar, the most quoted man in history.
In those early days, the messages were very serious:
Confucius say: Before embark on journey of revenge, dig two graves.
Confucius say: It not matter how slow you go as long as you never stop.
Confucius say: Respect yourself and others will respect you.
Then, in time, a little humor was added:
Confucius say: Man who run behind car get exhausted.
Confucius say: Man who drive like hell, bound to get there!
Confucius say: Man who get hit by car, get that run down feeling.
Then, on those nights when the visit to the Chinese restaurant followed a few hours in a bar, we’d make up our own:
Confucius say: Wise man never play leapfrog with unicorn.
Confucius say: Man who have sex on hill not on level.
Confucius say: Woman who wear padded bra, make mountain out of molehill.
Or if we hadn’t quite finished our adventures in alcohol and had ordered “special tea” (after legal drinking hours in Toronto, beer would be secretly served in teapots), we might even be a little more creative:
Help, I’m being held hostage in a Chinese bakery!
The next development in fortune cookie messages was the lottery number and, if you’ve ever wondered if people actually use these numbers, check out this piece from zidbits.com about one Powerball lottery.
“When the results began coming in from the 2005 March 30th lotto drawing, lottery officials believed a massive fraud was underway. While there had been only one winner of the $13.8 million jackpot, a record 110 players were claiming the runner-up prizes of either $100,000 or $500,000 (depending on if they paid a dollar extra for the bonus powerplay ball).
After some investigation, the lotto officials found no fraud involved and paid the claimants. They found that the winners had played the numbers (22, 28, 32, 33 and 39) they had recently received from a fortune cookie made by Wonton Food Inc. The company produces 4 million cookies a day branded under different brands. That is how those lucky numbers ended up in so many people’s minds.”
These days, fortune cookies carry some of the most boring messages in their century-old history. Well at least I thought they did until the last time a group of us got together for some family-style Chinese at San Miguel’s El Dragon Chino.
It was there that Kathy Patterson taught me something that, despite my obvious fascination with fortune cookies, I had never known.
All you have to do is add two words to the end of any message you find in virtually any fortune cookie to give them much more charm, more depth, more meaning. I’ll let Kathy demonstrate.
That’s right. Just those two words, a total of five letters, is all it takes. I added in bed to my own message.
Many pleasurable and memorable adventures are in store for you in bed.
I thought of suggesting to Don Day’s Wife that she finish her wine and we have an early night. But I had to check some of the other messages. Bob and Sandra’s read:
Do not be over judgmental of your loved one’s intentions or actions.
Wonder what they’ve been doing in bed.
The next one that was read out loud came from Jack Jacobs’ friend Rosi:
Your emotional currents are flowing powerfully now.
Hmmmmm. Not sure if my emotional currents have ever flowed powerfully. In bed or out of bed.
I won’t reveal who had the next message I read. I’ll only say that he was there as a single:
You can make your own happiness.
Fortune cookies suddenly had more taste than ever. Or at least a little more spice.
I again tried to persuade Don Day’s Wife to join me in a quick exit but she sat there studying and pondering her own message. Tell me what it says, I asked. Tell me what it says, I insisted. She read it out loud for everyone to hear:
Now is the time to try something new.
Dragon Chino is located at Salida de Celaya #71 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The restaurant is open Monday to Saturday, Noon to 10:00 pm; Sunday, Noon to 9:00 pm.